Watch out for silly Nobels
Cambridge – Scientists taking on the deep questions of whether cats are liquid or solid and whether playing the didgeridoo can help cure snoring, were honoured on this week at the Ig Nobel Prize spoof awards.
The prizes are the brainchild of Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, and are intended not to honour the best or worst in science, but rather to highlight research that encourages people to think in unusual ways.
“We hope that this will get people back into the habits they probably had when they were kids of paying attention to odd things and holding out for a moment and deciding whether they are good or bad only after they have a chance to think,” Abrahams says.
Some of the honourees tend towards the spurious: French researcher Marc-Antoine Fardin’s 2014 study “Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?” was inspired by internet photos of cats tucked into glasses and buckets.
A multinational team won the Peace Prize for a 2005 paper on didgeridoo playing and sleep apnea syndrome. The conclusion that the Australian wind instrument might be of some benefit was based not on the didgeridoo’s droning tone, but rather that the daily practice involved a lot of blowing, and may have strengthened the upper respiratory tract, making breathing easier.
The awards, now in their 27th year, are to be handed out by actual Nobel Prize winners at Harvard University on Thursday.